Guitar-Playing Boyfriends

Chatting with me in a smoky bar the other night, a musician friend recounted the demise of her marriage to a guitar god of some renown. Seems her attraction to him had been fueled, on some subconscious level, by his rock-star appeal. A few years into their relationship, she suddenly understood that she'd married a musician because she actually wanted to be a musician. When she started her own band, her marriage bit the dust.

Hmmm. My mind trickled back to certain of my own doomed relationships with little rock stars. I had to admit that, though I'd count Kim Gordon or the Runaways among my musical heroes, my influences were actually the boy guitar players I was, for a time, fond of keeping in my apartment.

As boyfriends go, a guitar player in his 20s is worse than useless (if you have one, dump him now and get yourself a good woman. Don't wait till he's 30; by then he'll be an embittered depressive, not to mention all the money he'll owe you). But as a role model for the gal in a revolutionary humor, there's nothing like a feckless lad with a Les Paul and a Marshall stack. This is because he is the keeper of secrets that go beyond the mysteries of alternate tunings and vacuum tubes. Boy guitar players are fantastic creatures; they coolly embrace all the possibilities of a natural confidence that I, a girl enfeebled by my perceived position within the sucky male paradigm, had never known existed.

To wit: They care only for themselves. They are wholly convinced of their own genius. They don't look back to see whether you're following; they just go. They don't bother with jobs. Unapologetically, they pee in the yard, fuck whomever they want, and can't make rent. Ever. With an ability to win adulation through a combination of insolence and really loud noise, the boy guitar player enjoys an enviable independence of spirit. Cool, huh?

This winsome hubris translates into onstage charisma. My boys would crank up to club volume and whack out the first chord with a Pete Townshend flourish, and a flash of gloating satisfaction would explode their studied rock-star ennui. Clearly the axe was no mere hunk of wood. It was portable self-esteem, an irresistible vibrating vortex of danger, art, sex and ego. And I wanted one.

So I snagged a Japanese SG copy (from a boy guitar player). From that moment on I was girlfriend no more. My boys didn't notice that I had become a dangerous subversive; they just thought I was cute (and maybe a little annoying), mucking up the pentatonic minor for hours at a stretch. Neither did they express much interest in my training, but that was OK with me. I'd already gotten what I needed from them: arrogance.

The same guy who gave me the fake SG had once joked that buying my own pair of Vise-Grips was the first step in my independence as a woman. I bought a Les Paul instead.

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